An antidote to Tito nostalgia

Spartacus (Fast novel)

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 Criticism etc writes on Raya Dunayevskaya, Tito nostalgia, Howard Fast and Spain. Extract:

[…] Dunayavskaya’s passing mention of Tito’s activities in Spainduring the revolution. Tito was a seasoned Comintern functionary long before he lead the partisan war against the Germans and it is an accepted part of his biography that in the 1930s he funneled volunteers from the Balkans to Spainto serve in the International Brigades. Proof that Tito was actually in Spainduring the revolution is scant, but the novelist and recipient of the Stalin Peace Prize, Howard Fast, author of Spartacus(which was made into the film starring Kirk Douglas), wrote a 1944 homage with the immortal title The Incredible Tito which places him in the country. If this is accurate, it is entirely possible that Tito participated in the Stalinist repression of the POUM and the Trotskyists (or the Bolshevik-Leninists, as they called themselves).

Fast claims in his memoir Being Red, that at the time in 1946 when he was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his work with the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee he learned that the Josip Broz in Spain he had heard about as an employee of the Office of War Information during WWII was not the one we know as Tito, but rather another person by that name (Fast was questioned about aid that may have helped Broz escape occupied France). Criticism &c. is inclined to belive the story as Fast recorded it in 1944. Regardless, Dunayevskaya may well have been informed from sources closer to the topic than Fast was privy to.

The irony in all of this is that in their frantic search for post-WW II perspectives, the Trotskyists went strongly pro-Tito for a time afterYugoslavia’s expulsion from the Cominform.

 C etc is right in noting the Tito nostalgia that pervades the left, both neo-Pabloite Trots and fellow travelling social democrats like Tony Benn. It was one of the factors that led much of the left to find themselves on the wrong side of the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s, when many associated the irredentist and ultimately genocidal Serbian nationalism with the partisan cause and the Croatian, Bosnian and other resistances to it with the Ustache.

Ken Coates

Ken CoatesI once wrote this about Ken Coates:

The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

I still hold to that opinion, and was saddened to read about his death on the 27 June. Ken Coates was one of the most thoughtful of British socialists, and one of the most activist of its theorists. His work on workers’ control is indispensable. This came out of his own proletarian experiences, out of an engagement with the experiments in self-management in Tito’s Yugoslavia (the cause of his 1948 break with Stalinism) and then out of Michael Raptis’ development of the Titoist model within the context of Trotskyism.

At the same time, I think that the dark side of Pabloism – its excessive enthusiasm for a Second Campist kind of national self-determination, which led it into supporting some authoritarian “anti-imperialist” regimes – also coloured his thinking. This element came to the fore in his later years, when geopolitics rather than class struggle became his central concern at The Spokesman. (See, for instance, this rabbit’s eye view of his use of Christian antisemitism in his late rhetoric.)

'The dirty war in Mr Wilson. Or how he stopped worrying about Vietnam and learned to love the dollar', 1966Among the groups Coates passed through, after the Communist Party, were the Revolutionary Socialist League, the International Group, forerunner of the International Marxist Group, the the Institute for Workers’ Control, the International Socialists (he was one of the journal editors in the 1960s, its greatest period, although I am not sure if he was ever a member), the Labour Party (several times, including a fair few expulsions), the Independent Labour Network and the  North Derbyshire Socialist Alliance.

Please read Andrew Coates’ eulogy to this great man. Andrew has other links too: Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent Here, Blog Three Score Years and Ten Here, Five Leaves Blog Here. Also: Socialist Unity.

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